Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Dangerous Book for Your Classroom Library

I finally checked out a book from the library I've been looking forward to for a long time: The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden.

I was excited about it because the book promised to teach some of the lost art of being a kid. There's been a weird confluence of overly protective parenting, NCLB-era schooling, new technology, and increasing urbanization that makes a lot of things I learned and experienced as a boy less common and possible as time goes on.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a rural area, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. My friends and I would disappear into the woods that surrounded our homes for hours on end and play a lot of outdoor games. I liked to learn about all of the traditional "boy stuff," like dinosaurs, ancient history, the moon, the stars, nature and animals. I'm pretty sure we tried our share of dangerous stunts (although I'm having a hard time remembering any in particular).

When I heard about the book, I knew that if it did what it claimed to do, it would be an excellent addition to any classroom (or home) library. It absolutely fulfills its promise, although I can tell you that the only thing really dangerous in this book are crazy ideas like:
  • Learning about literature, science, math and history can be fun.
  • You can actually build and make stuff for yourself instead of buying it.
  • There's more to life than technology.
  • Paper airplanes will always be cool.
You don't have to worry about anything being blown up--this isn't the Anarchist's Cookbook. Instead, it's a sincere attempt to preserve some of the simple joys of being a kid that are being lost to the march of progress.

I have little doubt that if a student picked this up and began to thumb through it, they would find something (or many things) of interesting and be hooked. The book is filled with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations, artwork and photographs to bring each short chapter to life. There's a fairly even split between chapters that share wisdom on essential topics (famous battles, grammar, U.S. geography, girls) and those that show them how to do stuff (make a go-cart, coin tricks, how to play chess, build an electromagnet). In short, there's more than enough here to keep just about any boy engaged, not to mention the nostalgic adult.

The best thing about it is that it's a book of analog ideas in a digital world. The novelty of that idea alone should be enough to want to add it to your classroom library.

If thinking about this book has you reminiscing about your youth, you might want to read 100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About from Wired's GeekDad blog.